NIGEL Coulter reckons he’s got the best job in the world.
“It makes people happy, it keeps me fit, and I can knock off and go to the gym whenever I want. What more could you possibly want?”
The broad-smiling strongman, legendary in parts of the Bay of Plenty for his window cleaning finesse, has earned a reputation for hard work.
Now in his 15th year on the job, his approach has always remained the same.
“I give my customers 100 percent,” he says. “I’m not the sort of person that gives 80.”
Nigel says he’s out the door by six each morning. With hundreds of residential and commercial customers, “every day is a busy one”.
Jobs in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui, as well as Whakatane where he works two or three days of each week mean hefty mileage, but Nigel’s got no complaints.
Born and bred in Whakatane in a family of eight children, and establishing his Sparkle and Shine business prior to moving, he says he was never going to “up and leave” his locals. “I love my customers,” he says, “I wasn’t going to let them down”.
Nigel’s commitment to his work has few bounds. “I love my work. Nothing worries me, I don’t care if it’s a big job or small one. If it’s a $20 job, I’ll still give it a 100 percent. People work hard for their money, and I work hard for mine.”
Now based in Welcome Bay with wife Kathy and twin sons Cameron and Fergus, Nigel’s attitude to work appears to extend to all parts of his life.
“I seem to do everything at a hundred miles an hour,” he says. “I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am. I guess I’m fairly driven and I’m definitely competitive.”
Nigel says he seems to find competition in everything “even if it’s just with myself, I’m always trying for a personal best”.
He laughs as he talks about (sports app) Strava, a recent discovery he says, that brings out his competitive nature as much as a real sporting event.
An avid and competitive mountain biker, Nigel clocks around 80 kilometres in “after work” rides alongside more serious competition events throughout the year.
It’s a sport he says he loves, having “discovered” it six years ago. There are weekend trips with fellow riders. Not leisurely, gentle rides, but trips with “crazy friends” on adventurous trails, always aiming at personal bests – “the Timber Trail in Benneydale, 90kms in six-and-a-half hours,” or, previously, “the Ghost Trail in Westport”.
Wife Kathy is also a mountain biker, a runner, and competitive marathon runner and one of their sons rides too. In keeping with their active mode, Nigel’s gift to Kathy for her birthday this year is a “helicopter drop-off to the top of the Motu” ready for the bike down.
And then there’s the gym. Along with his passion for “mountain biking, work, and family”, the gym contends highly for Nigel’s time.
Fitting in “a couple hours” at the gym whenever he can, is, he says, a priority. “It’s really important to me, I love it, it’s total me time”.
An interest in body building briefly featured in earlier years, but “it just wasn’t me,” Nigel says. “I just do it to keep fit and strong for my work.” (Nigel took part in Whakatane’s first Fight for Life fundraiser, infamously knocking two opponents unconscious in practice rounds - “I didn’t mean to,” he says before going on to win his fight on the night).
How he maintains enough energy for the staggering output he expends daily is a question he’s often asked. “I don’t know,” he shrugs, “I just do. I eat six small meals a day and keep well hydrated. I know what my body needs and how it works.”
Life did though, come crashing down for a while in December last year. “I think I used to see myself as infallible,” he says.
“I always feel good and I never get sick.” But the fluke accident changed that, leaving Nigel with a new message – “I’m a lucky bugger,” he says. “I’m just a lucky, lucky bugger.”
Water-blasting a house, he was stepping backwards when he tripped on a ladder. With the pressure of the water blaster increasing the force as he fell, the incident left him knocked out. Regaining consciousness, with “a terrible pain in my back”, Nigel says he managed to crawl to his truck, and drive to hospital.
Although feeling pretty sore, everything seemed to be okay and Nigel returned to work the next day. However, a phone call later informed him of a vertebrate fracture. “The advice was to keep mobile, so I kept working, but I was feeling horrible and taking it easy.”
Feeling worse by the day, Nigel says he put it down to effects of the pain medication, until eight days later, he collapsed, unconscious. “I could have died,” he says. “By most standards, I should have died.”
By the time he arrived at hospital, his kidneys and other vital organs were shutting down. He was diagnosed with septicemia. Doctors told him the fall must have damaged a kidney, leading to infection and the organ failure that had followed.
In his two weeks in hospital, he lost 15kgs. “I wasn’t infallible after all,” he laughs.
Nigel says that while he recovered quickly, his sense of being “lucky” hasn’t left him.
“I am lucky,” he says. “I love my life and my main priority has always been to just be happy, and I am.”
Being a window-cleaner brings a “feel-good factor” too, he says. “People are always happy to see me because everyone loves seeing their windows suddenly clean again.
“And I’m a people person, so I’m always happy to see them too. It’s a win-win situation. If I stopped making people happy, I’d stop doing the job.”
When pressed to find one thing that annoys the eternally happy window cleaner, Nigel finally admits to something. “Lazy buggers,” he says.